Why did you go to college? I’ll tell you why I did. To land my dream job! While what we learn in school helps prepare us for the day we enter into our respective fields, there are a few things that your professors just don’t teach you.
As a recent graduate from San Jose State University, I’ve had the opportunity to intern at McGrath/Power for six months and then come on board to work for the agency full time. During this period, I’ve gone through a number of transitions – from student to part-time intern and now to full-time professional. With this 12-month transitionary period behind me, I’d like to share 12 things they didn’t teach me in school that I guarantee you’ll need to know in your first year as a PR professional.
Here are the first six:
- Be Proactive: Want to stand out immediately? Ask questions, show interest and suggest creative ideas without being prompted to. In school, when you complete an assignment and it exceeds expectations, your professors typically recognize those efforts and reward you with a good grade. To get noticed at a full-time job, you need to show that you are an asset to your team and have something to offer. You can do so by preparing for meetings, showing your account leads that you are responsible for your work (don’t make them micromanage), and offering up your suggestions. Being proactive and showing initiative will get you noticed and take you far.
- Don’t Stress (Too Much): Of course we encounter stress in college, but working in the field brings with it a completely different type of stress. In PR, time is money, which means added pressure to get projects done by their deadlines and with high quality. Don’t worry, though! Focus on developing your time management skills, which is what I did in my first 12 months. Your colleagues will offer tips and tricks to help you manage your time; listen to their advice, and try out different methods. Eventually, you’ll find what works best for you, helping you stay on deadline without feeling overwhelmed. Being able to manage your time is key to being successful, and happy, at your job.
- Find A Work/Life Balance: Maintaining a healthy work/life balance is essential, as discussed in a previous blog post by my boss, Jonathan Bloom. Whether you are an intern, or a full-time employee, being able to make time for yourself, along with your work, is important. It may seem difficult at first, but it is critical to keeping yourself happy at work and outside of work.
- Ask Questions: Trust me, you will have a lot of them. One of the biggest pieces of advice I think I can give is to make sure to ask questions when you are unsure of something or simply don’t know the answer. Try to figure it out on your own first, and if you still don’t know, then ask! No one expects you to know everything after graduation. As I said before, professors only teach you so much. Asking questions shows that you are eager to learn and you want to do your best. Your team will recognize and appreciate that.
- Read Industry News: Reading the news is one of the best ways to keep up to date on PR trends and your clients’ industries. Spend 30 minutes each day catching up on relevant news to understand what is going on in their industry and where they fit into the conversation. Reading the news is an essential part of being a PR pro, and there a number of tools that can help you keep track from RSS feeds to Google Alerts.
- Drink Coffee: Expect to drink lots of it. I sure did. This isn’t college. You can’t stay up until 3 a.m. on a week day and expect to be “on” the next day. Trying to go to sleep early and waking up early meant I needed plenty of coffee to fuel me in the mornings. As you’re given more responsibility and transition from intern to full time, you may find yourself working odd hours as you acclimate. Coffee will become one of your best friends. Just make sure, if you take the last of the coffee in the pot, that you make a fresh one after!
As you prepare to make the transition into your full-time career, knowing what to expect and asking for advice from colleagues can be invaluable. For those of you with a good amount of experience behind you already, what would you share with someone just starting out? Have you encountered some of the lessons I’ve learned above? Let me know in the comments section. You can also read about the remaining six lessons I’ve learned in my first 12 months!